An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, UK
Distance: 237 hectares
Difficulty: Moderate
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 8 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Scilly Isles
  • Size: 237 hectares
  • Terrain: easy to follow coastal path; mixed grass, sand, rock
  • Access: boat; plane
  • Height gain: 497 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 101
  • Starting point: Hugh Town Quay
  • Accommodation/food:

    plenty in Hugh Town itself. Outside of Hugh Town & close to the coastal path refreshments can be found at Juliet’s Garden, Porthloo & Old Town cafe

  • Island Summary:

    St Mary’s is every visitor’s first stop to this archipelago. The very minute you step off the plane or boat you can’t help but soak up the wonderfully bucolic feel and look expectantly around for any one of Enid Blyton’s characters to jump out and ask for ‘lashings of ginger beer’. The capital, historic Hughtown, is a hub for all inter-island travel and the gentle hustle and bustle at the quay as people arrive and depart for the out islands is about as hectic as life gets here. With the rich history, fantastically varied walking, relaxed lifestyle with all of the amenities, St Mary’s makes an excellent base to explore.

  • Look out for:
    • Dolphins surfing the bow wave of the Scillion en-route
    • Halangay Down ancient village
    • Spend more time exploring Harry’s Walls and the Garrison Walls
  • Route description:

    starting at the quay in Hugh Town the route passes the outer walls of the Garrison to reach Porth Cressa and then the batteries and cairns around Peninnis Head. Dropping into Old Town provides an opportunity to see Harold Wilson’s grave at the church and to stock up with refreshments at the café. Passing the end of the airport’s runway on Salakee Down is exhilarating, particularly with an impending arrival indicated by a siren. Rounding the Porth Hellick Bay, with its small fishing boats, the chambered cairns can be viewed using a small diversion from the path. Further on, if the tide is low, Toll Island can be accessed if time permits. The Innisidgen cairns are well worth an exploration before heading into the trees of Helvear Down. After passing Bar Point the views of Tresco open up and as you approach the bobbing boats in Hugh Town’s harbour there are opportunities to explore two further islands, Taylor’s Island and Newford Island

  • Getting there:

    Scillonian III from Penzance; Skybus flights from Lands End, Newquay and Exeter airports

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Whales and dolphins

Whales and dolphins are regularly spotted from the Scillonian III

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